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Long Beach votes to raise minimum wage to $13 by 2019

Long Beach City Council voted 6-2 on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016 in favor of a proposal to incrementally raise the city's minimum wage.
Long Beach City Council voted 6-2 on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016 in favor of a proposal to incrementally raise the city's minimum wage.

The Long Beach City Council on Wednesday voted to raise the minimum wage to at least $13 an hour by 2019.

The proposal passed 6-2 after midnight, according to the Long Beach Press Telegram. The plan, introduced by Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal, would increase the minimum wage to $10.50 by 2017, $12 by 2018 and $13 by 2019.

Businesses with 25 employees or fewer and non-profits would have an extra year to phase in the wage increases.

The proposal, which still must be drafted into an ordinance and approved again by the council, falls short of the wage hikes recently approved by Los Angeles city and county. Those ordinances raise the minimum wage gradually each year until it tops out at $15 per hour for most businesses by 2020. 

Labor activists packed the Long Beach Council meeting hoping to convince members to follow L.A.'s lead. Many wore t-shirts or held signs calling for a $15 dollar minimum wage. Their remarks were part of more than two hours of public testimony.

The city council voted to commission a study to assess the effects of the wage hike on the economy, said the Press Telegram. If the increase appears beneficial, the city’s minimum wage would jump to $14 in 2020 and $15 in 2021.

“The gap continues to grow between the wealthy and the poor, and we continue to deal with the impacts of a growing class of residents living in poverty,” said Councilwoman Lowenthal. "We are represented by a council that finds it very difficult to look away when the disparity can be so vulgar." 

The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which represents more than 300 unions in the county, praised the move in a statement.

"We thank the Mayor and City Council for voting to prepare an ordinance that would lift thousands of workers out of poverty and ensure they are not cheated out of a full day's work," Rusty Hicks, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and a co-convener of the Campaign to Raise the Wage, said in the statement.

It continued: "An ordinance that includes a $15/hour wage, cost-of-living adjustment, wage enforcement, and no exemptions is the only way to ensure workers have a secure and stable life to provide for their families."

This story has been updated.